ELYRIA — Even after a slow start against a fast team, Elyria Catholic nearly pulled off a big West Shore Conference win Wednesday night.
Unfortunately, from an EC point of view, the operative word is “nearly.”
In a battle of state-ranked teams, Rocky River scored in the second minute then held on for a 2-1 victory at Knights of Columbus Field.
The Pirates’ swift defenders allowed the Panthers just four shots on goal. EC’s goal came on a penalty kick.
River coach Kevin Zerbey loved the Pirates’ early goal.
“That was better than I could have hoped for,” Zerbey said. “I’ve seen the scores and I know how good Elyria Catholic is. I don’t know what Attila (EC coach Csiszar) is going to say, but it seemed to me it took them five or 10 minutes to get going. We got that goal in the first two minutes, and that was key.”
Csiszar agreed. He said he thought the Panthers were lackadaisical the first 40 minutes.
“We weren’t pressuring and they were beating us to every 50-50 ball,” he said.
“In the second half, we adjusted and came out strong. We transitioned a little bit and started to press on them. That (early) goal was inexcusable. The boys know you have to defend shirt-tight, especially a fast team like Rocky River.”
The Pirates (10-1-1, 5-0 WSC) are ranked eighth statewide in Division II and are tied with Bay for the conference lead. The Panthers (9-2-1, 3-2-0) are ranked second in the state, along with Summit Country Day School of Cincinnati, in Division III. EC plays at Bay next Wednesday.
River forward Anthony Mod scored from close range less than two minutes into the game. That goal held for a 1-0 lead at the break. Then Jacob Wischmeier nailed the eventual winner when he connected with a header off Trent Newby’s throw-in in the 57th minute.
Senior midfielder Michael Saddler gave EC an emotional boost when he netted a penalty kick in the 60th minute. The goal came after the Pirates were whistled for a handball in the Rocky River box.
The Panthers played stronger in the second half and created several other scoring chances.
Forward Carl Spaetzel put Pirates keeper Dominica Liva to work with a hard shot in the 44th minute and Gage Jarvis was just wide of the left goalpost with a shot in the 59th minute, a harbinger of the EC score that followed a minute later.
Saddler forced Liva to make a diving save when he got off a rocket in the 70th minute. And he was on target with a free kick from 30 yards six minutes later, but again Liva was up to the task. Also, the Panthers earned several corner kicks in the last 10 minutes, but couldn’t score the equalizer.
Liva said his life in the net was made more pleasant by the work of the defenders in front of him.
“They are truly the best,” he said. “They were really strong tonight. They kept the ball out of there and I only touched it a couple times.
“That was good, especially coming back from an injury (dislocated finger against Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin). Even on the close calls they were there to help me.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rocky River 2, Elyria Catholic 1
GOALS: (RR) Anthony Mod (2nd minute), Jacob Wischmeier (57th); (EC) Michael Saddler, PK (60th).
ASSISTS: (RR) Trent Newby.
SAVES: (RR) Dominic Liva 3; (EC) Marty Conroy 5.
SHOTS: Rocky River 11, Elyria Catholic 10.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Rocky River 6, Elyria Catholic 4.
CORNER KICKS: Rocky River 6, Elyria Catholic 1.
GOAL KICKS: Rocky River 3, Elyria Catholic 10.
HANDBALLS: Rocky River 1, Elyria Catholic 1.
CARDS: (RR) Wischmeier, yellow (60th).
HALF: Rocky River, 1-0.